Ingredients in Coke

What's Really in Coca Cola?

Did you know Coke still contains an extract from the coca plant?
Did you know Coke still contains an extract from the coca plant?. Jesus Ayala, Getty Images

You probably know that once upon a time Coca-Cola or Coke contained cocaine. What you might not know is that the beverage is still flavored with an extract from the coca leaf and that the cocaine which is extracted from the leaves is sold for medicinal use. The Stepan Company extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which is sold to Mallinckrodt, the only US company that is licensed to purify cocaine. So... what are the other ingredients in Coke and what do they do?

  • carbonated water
  • sugar (which can be sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup)
  • caffeine
  • phosphoric acid v. caramel (E150d)
  • natural flavorings (which include coca leaf extract)

The purpose of the carbonated water and sugar is obvious, but you may be unaware caramel coloring is also an important flavoring agent... well, unless you ever tried the clear versions of Coke or Pepsi, which were vile. Caramel color is a soluble food coloring that is prepared by heat treating carbohydrates. The golden or brown liquid retains a bitter taste and burnt sugar odor. The caffeine is a stimulant, but also contributes a characteristic bitter flavor to the cola. The secret formula of the additional flavorings is known to two executives at Coca-Cola. The original copy of the formula is kept in Atlanta in the SunTrust Bank's vault.